OpenAI Suspends ChatGPT Voice That Sounds Like Scarlett Johansson in ‘Her’: AI ‘Should Not Deliberately Mimic a Celebrity’s Distinctive Voice’

Scarlett Johansson
Kristy Sparow/Getty Images

After many people noticed that one of the voices in OpenAI’s voice-enabled chatbot sounded very much like that of Scarlett Johansson’s disembodied AI companion in Spike Jonze’s 2013 movie “Her,” the company is suspending the voice for the time being.

The Johansson-soundalike voice, called Sky, was part of OpenAI’s GPT-4o release, which it launched last week. The updated AI chatbot can respond to verbal questions from users to mimic a real-time conversation. The connection to “Her” was explicitly drawn by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, who after the event shared on X a one-word post: “her.”

In a statement released Monday, the company said, “We believe that AI voices should not deliberately mimic a celebrity’s distinctive voice — Sky’s voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson but belongs to a different professional actress using her own natural speaking voice.” OpenAI said “To protect their privacy, we cannot share the names of our voice talents.”

“We’ve heard questions about how we chose the voices in ChatGPT, especially Sky,” OpenAI said. “We are working to pause the use of Sky while we address them.”

The Johansson-like ChatGPT voice was fodder for a joke at the expense of her husband, Colin Jost, on this weekend’s “Saturday Night Live.” The gag was written by Jost’s “Weekend Update” co-host Michael Che for their annual joke-swapping segment, in which the goal is to prank each other with cringeworthy one-liners. “ChatGPT has released a new voice assistant feature inspired by Scarlett Johansson’s AI character in ‘Her,’ which I’ve never bothered to watch because without that body, what’s the point of listening?” Jost read off a cue card before, dissolving into embarrassed laughter. (Watch the bit here.)

Altman said in an interview last year that “Her” is his favorite movie. In the movie, Joaquin Phoenix plays a man who, heartbroken after his marriage ends, falls in love with a new AI “operating system” called Samantha (voiced by Johansson).

It’s unclear whether OpenAI has been in contact with Johansson or her reps about the similar-sounding Sky voice. In its statement Monday, OpenAI said, “We support the creative community and worked closely with the voice acting industry to ensure we took the right steps to cast ChatGPT’s voices. Each actor receives compensation above top-of-market rates, and this will continue for as long as their voices are used in our products.”

OpenAI first introduced voice capabilities in ChatGPT in September 2023. The company said it “partnered with award-winning casting directors and producers to create the criteria for voices” and received more than 400 submissions from voice and screen actors. It settled on actors for five voices (Breeze, Cove, Ember, Juniper and Sky), and each actor flew to San Francisco for recording sessions.

From Variety US